Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Diablo III Survival Guide

If you love to slay demons with your friends, collect loot, and level up a character to better accomplish the aforementioned tasks and somehow you don't know about Diablo III, you should probably pay attention. The game will be released on May 15 globally, meaning that the countdown has begun. Diablo III will put millions of fans' expectations to the test. I have gathered all of the significant changes and innovations that Diablo III brings to the table to help prepare you for that day. 

Classes and Followers

Diablo III will launch with five different playable classes: Monk, Barbarian, Demon Hunter, Wizard, and Witch Doctor. This time around, both male and female options are available. Even though almost all of the classes are either direct ports or mash-ups from Diablo II, the wide variety of skills and customization set them apart from their predecessors. You will have three different followers to choose from depending on your preference and playstyle. Eirena the Enchantress will provide you magical damage and supportive spells. Lyndon the Scoundrel will supply you with attack bonuses while assisting with the killing from a distance. Kormac the Templar will run to the front lines and can offer you healing when you are in danger. Along with customizable equipment, your Follower now boasts a skill tree that you can control. 

Skills and Runes

The completely revamped skill system brings the biggest change to the Diablo formula. Diablo III offers a wide variety of skills and different modifiers that you can attach to those skills called Runes that are unique to each class. For example, the Witch Doctor's 'Zombie Charger' skill can be augmented with runes to do bonus poison damage in its wake, resurrect other corpses upon death, summon more than one charger and do less damage, summon a fire dog in place of the zombie, or summon a pile of poison bears instead. Each skill has different runes that are unlocked at different levels; for example, the pile of poison bears requires level 54. Diablo II offered each class three skill trees and points to allocate into those trees. Once you dropped that point in, there was no going back, it was final. Since you can change your skill build and rune combinations whenever you want, Diablo III's skill structure allows for everyone to experience each facet of their selected class without penalty. The runes also add a significant amount of depth since there are countless possibilities and combinations. It is also worth noting that almost all the skills in Diablo III are based off of your weapon damage, so it is very important to keep upgrading that main weapon to do the most damage.

Combat and Difficulty

Combat in Diablo III will feel familiar to most -- point, click, and kill things. You will be able to map your skills, along with your potions, to your bar at the bottom of the screen for easy access. But potions aren't the same as they were in Diablo II. You are not forced to hoard a pile of Full Rejuvenation potions for that tough boss. As you roll through the mobs of demons, Health Orbs will drop from their corpses, which encourages you to keep the action going. The more you kill, the more you can heal up. Historically, Diablo games offered you the option to play the game again upon completion, with some things modified to make it more difficult. After finishing on Normal you can progress to Nightmare Mode, then on to Hell mode. Diablo III offers even another setting beyond that, Inferno Mode. The further you progress, the better the item drops may get. If the difficulty isn't challenging enough for you, Hardcore Mode will return in Diablo III. In this mode, if your character dies, the game is over. Your deeds of valor will be remembered, but you may not continue. Blizzard has recently announced that Hardcore Mode will be unlockable after you take a normal (or Softcore) character to level 10.

Itemization: Crafting, Finding, and Selling

One thing the Diablo series has been good at is getting you hooked on item collecting. Once you kill a swarm of skeletons, a pile of loot sprays out on the ground. You will be constantly upgrading your Hero and Follower. The game implements a personal loot system when multiple players are in the same game. You will each see different item drops on the screen, so there is no need to fight over that shiny set of armor that just dropped. Diablo III also introduces a "Shared Stash" that is upgradeable. If you store an item in your stash on one character, you will be able to find those items in your stash on another character. That being said, you won't be able to transfer between Hardcore and Softcore characters. But random drops isn't the only way to get some great gear. There are two Artisans in the game that can help you craft items and upgrades. The Blacksmith will create weapons and armor with random stat modifiers and the Jeweler will help you upgrade your gems and slot them into weapons/armor for bonuses. Allowing the Blacksmith to break down the magical items that you have no use for will supply you with more materials for crafting. You also can spend gold to level these Artisans up to allow for creation of more powerful gear. Players will also be able to buy, sell, and bid on items in the in-game auction house. This inclusion was met with a level of concern when it was also announced that accompanying the in-game gold auction house, there would be a real money auction house available as well. 

Online Play

Diablo III will require an internet connection at all times. While this is disheartening to some internet-challenged gamers, it is to guarantee the integrity of the game and thwart any malicious users (especially with the real money auction house). Each game can have up to four players at a time. You will be able to jump in and out of games with your friends, and easily find other players who are in similar areas of the game. Similarly to previous Diablo games, the enemies will get stronger as more players join, and weaker as they leave. Blizzard has promised the inclusion of PvP arenas in the game, but they have been delayed to insure a timely release for the game. This feature will be added post launch. If you want to be able to hack and slash your way to victory as soon as possible, you can pre-download and install the game and it will be unlocked as soon as the servers go live. It's also worth noting that if you sign up for a year of World of Warcraft, then you can get the game for free.

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